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Vetch is a winter annual legume, familiarly divided into common(Vicia sativa L) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa). It is widely used as a cover-crop in everything from orchards to field and vegetable crops, many times with peas, grains and other cover crops. It is a significant producer of nitrogen, especially for crops planted late in the spring. This makes it very attractive to organic growers. Another traits of vetch is that it lowers the ration of carbon to nitrogen in mixes with cereal grains. This quickens the process of decompositioning. Growth is slow in the fall, but significant in the spring.
Coated vetch is also an option to consider, especially for aerial seeding. The coating improves ballistics, better seed-to-soil contact, maintains inoculantion, and increases moisture wicking of the seed. Coated seed can help ensure a more even germination over the whole field. Read the Advantages of Coated Grasses and Legume Seed for Cover Crops to learn why coating and proper inoculation can help ensure successful cover cropping.
Hairy Vetch for Cover Cropping in Organic Farming - an eOrganic article, reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Easy to read, good descriptions and photos, including how to kill it organically.
Complete Crop Summary of Hairy Vetch - From the UC SAREP Cover Crop Database
Complete Crop Summary of Common Vetch - From the UC SAREP Cover Crop Database
Photos of Hairy Vetch - From the UC SAREP Cover Crop Database
Oregon Cover Crops:Hairy Vetch - From the Oregon State University extension serice. Includes quick facts, uses, hardiness zone map and more.
Oregon Cover Crops:Common Vetch - From the Oregon State University extension serice. Includes quick facts, uses, hardiness zone map and more.